Disneyland Vs. Dismaland: Why Both Are Incomplete

Recently PBS aired a two-part documentary on the life of Walt Disney. The program presented Disney as a man who recoiled from the dark side of life. He withdrew from the real world by re-creating a parallel, sanitized version of reality. Disney was a remarkable visionary and storyteller, so he powerfully communicated this safe, uber-reality through movies, television, and ultimately Disneyland. Walt-Disney America–and much of the rest of the world–found Disney’s vision almost irresistible. Practically every American child has had his or her life impacted by Walt Disney. I grew up on a steady diet of Disney movies, The Mickey Mouse Club, and Ducktales comic books.

However magical Disney’s world may seem, there’s always something that’s missing. Escapism never satisfies. A recent Disney movie, Tomorrowland (starring George Clooney), displayed just how vapid and banal such utopian visions really are. A recent article in Christianity Today explains why the Disney vision falls flat:

It may assuage our uneasiness to disengage, to pretend that ignoring evil is the same thing as resisting it. Disney has built an empire on this principle, regularly stealing from the Grimm Brothers’ treasury and adapting fairy tales to suit our modern sensibilities. We like our stories sanitized, following a formula that is predictable and happy and safe for children. But the problem with this reluctance to look evil in the eyes—besides the cowardice it betrays—is that such a view of reality is not complete.

Banksy, the British artist and political activist, has had enough. He has created a ghoulish parody of Disneyland that he calls “Dismaland”. Located on a couple of acres in Somerset, England, the exhibit provides creepy rides and disturbing characters intended to mock the Disney vision.

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Dismaland is as depressing as Disneyland is cheery. The CT article noted earlier explains why Dismaland falls prey to the same shortcomings of Disneyland:

The problem with Dismaland is that, despite its best efforts to stand in opposition to Disney World and the like, it fosters the same kind of narrow vision that Disney World perpetuates. Disney may ignore certain horrors in the world, but Dismaland shields itself from Disney’s blazing glory. The world is too vile for us to be blithe. It is also too beautiful for us to be afraid.

Both visions–Disneyland and Dismaland–are incomplete. Neither worldview properly views the evil in the world; both fail to see the world in the light of redemption. Sin has marred a beautiful Creation. Through Jesus Christ, God promises to make all things new. A Gospel-centered worldview, one that sees all things from the perspective of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, can view this beautiful/ugly world with clear-eyed confidence and hope.

Cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

In Case You Missed It

Recently at TGC, Trevin Wax published an article giving tips for reading better while retaining more. In his article Trevin writes:

Last week, I posted a video to my Facebook page in which I gave some tips for reading faster, better, and wider. Also last week, Hubworthy released book recommendations from people associated with The Gospel Coalition. (My list of “essential reading” is here.)

With so many good books to read, it’s natural to want to read better and wider. Here is my response to a few questions that were sent to me on Facebook, prompted by the video.

In a guest post on Art Rainer’s blog, Sam Morris gives five helpful tips for becoming a better public speaker:

Whether it is a sermon full of ‘umms’ or a prayer spoken at the speed of sound, if the audience has lost track you are not communicating effectively. As a pastor, this could quite literally be the difference between redemption and condemnation.

There are a myriad of reasons why a pastor should always continue to develop as a public speaker. Here are  five communication tips for pastors to consider.

Elizabeth Wann published an article earlier this week at Desiring God explaining the hidden ministry of motherhood. Elizabeth writes:

[T]he main role God calls us to as wives and mothers is our home and family. God made women to bear and nurture life and men to provide for and protect the lives of women and children. The heart disposition in these matters manifests itself in where our priorities lie.

At the Baptist Press, Don Whitney explains how he started praying the Bible:

It was the first of March 1985. I remember where I was sitting when it happened.

I was pastor of a church in the western suburbs of Chicago. A guest preacher was speaking at a series of meetings at our church. He was teaching on the prayers of the apostle Paul in his New Testament letters, and encouraging us to pray these inspired prayers as our own.

Then, at one point he held up his Bible said, “Folks, when you pray, use the prayer book.”

In that moment I suddenly realized, “The entire Bible is a prayer book. We can pray not only the prayers of Paul in Ephesians, we can pray everything in the Book of Ephesians.”

Chris Martin recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Russell Moore about his latest book ‘Onward’.

I do not count it coincidence that a leader as articulate and gracious as he has been made the leader of one of the most influential Christian organizations in Washington, D.C. amidst our present culture context. The Lord knew what he was doing when he led Dr. Moore to lead the ERLC, and I’m thankful for that. People who get on TV to represent Christianity sometimes make Christians look silly. Dr. Moore has done quite the opposite, and I’m thankful someone like him represents evangelicals on CNN and other places.

A Few Thoughts about Kim Davis’ Imprisonment

Last week on Sept 3, Kim Davis, the county clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, was jailed for contempt of court. Rather than issue state marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Davis stopped processing marriage licenses altogether. She and her office were sued by both straight and gay couples. The courts ruled against Davis, and when she refused to comply a federal judge had her taken into custody.HT_kim_davis_jef_150903_16x9_992  As of this writing, she remains in jail. The Rowan County clerk’s office now grants licenses to same-sex couples. A concise and clear summary of the case and the issues involved can be found in the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s The Weekly Explainer. I want to express a few thoughts:

1. Kim Davis is right not to violate her conscience. To the best of his or her ability, a Christian has a responsibility to the Lord to obey His will as expressed in His Word. The Bible gives numerous examples of believers who find themselves in circumstances that require them to stand against the tide. The Books of Esther and Daniel were written for the express purpose of providing such examples. I admire and respect Davis’ courage and conviction.

2. There is no need to give a blanket approval to the way Davis handled this matter. She was wrong to shut down the County Clerks office. Her decision to refuse all marriage licenses is problematic. Because she is an elected official (as a Democrat), she cannot be removed from office except by impeachment. This appears to be a case where resigning in protest may have been the best course of action for her to have taken.

3. Kim Davis should not have been put in jail. In their article “Need We Jail Each Other Over Marriage Licenses“, Russ Moore and Andy Walker point out that this situation was created by the overreach of the federal government and the failure of the Kentucky state government. They note:

[T]he judicial ruling against Mrs. Davis needlessly escalated the events in Kentucky by meting out an unnecessarily harsh penalty—incarceration—with failure to consider similar past measures undertaken by those in support of same-sex marriage. As many others have noted, those who are now hailing the rule of law as a way of cudgeling Mrs. Davis are the same voices who once undermined it in the name of advancing same-sex marriage. When Attorney General Jack Conway (now the Democratic candidate for governor) refused to defend Kentucky’s marriage law, no negative recourse was handed out even though Conway got to play pick-and-choose with the laws he believed were worth defending. Furthermore, when a same-sex couple in Kentucky exercised civil disobedience at being turned down for a same-sex marriage license in 2013, they were arrested, fined one cent, and quickly set free. With the length of her incarceration unknown, is Mrs. Davis receiving equal treatment?

4. This is just the beginning. We are going to have to think carefully about how we respond to future situations. As Moore and Walker’s article notes, there are differences between the religious liberty claims of private individuals and those of government officials. Christians must pray for the wisdom, grace, and courage to stand rightly for the truth. Days like these require from us the spiritual balance to be “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves”.

Posted also at www.theologyforthechurch.com